“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
From “Christmas Bells” by
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
A recent study released by Fidelity Charitable, a nonprofit arm of Fidelity Investments, “found that two-thirds of all volunteers had either decreased or stopped their volunteering because of the pandemic.” The various hardships experienced by so many this year have put the focus on home, family, and more personal, immediate concerns. With the holiday season upon us, traditional gift-giving may feel frivolous or be scaled back by necessity. Dedicating time and talent to worthy causes is an inexpensive, productive way to get in the spirit and spread holiday cheer.
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health tested “the hypothesis that providing help to others predicts a reduced association between stress and mortality.” 846 Detroit-area participants “completed baseline interviews that assessed past-year stressful events and whether the participant had provided tangible assistance to friends or family members.” When adjusted for age, health, and psychosocial variables, the study concluded, “Helping others predicted reduced mortality specifically by buffering the association between stress and mortality.” Another study conducted by Harvard Business School confirmed that, among charitable giving benefits, happiness is primary. “Happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop (with happier people giving more, getting happier, and giving even more).”
TOPS Louisville Magazine has done some legwork for you by gathering specific information from local charities that could use your help now. Find out what each of these charities is about, who they benefit and serve, and the many ways you can get involved.
Change Today, Change Tomorrow Founder and Executive Director Taylor Ryan first envisioned opening a school in the West End. Quickly realizing the first order of business would be to fill the significant gaps in the basic needs of area children and their families, Taylor launched Change Today, Change Tomorrow in September 2019. Along with Deputy Director Nannie Croney and a full slate of Black women leaders, Taylor has developed the organization to provide “access to resources, education, and community engagement.” Programs and services include #FeedTheWest food justice initiative, Black Trans Fund, Black Business Fund, community events and resources, and Wish Lists to support West Louisville women, teachers, protesters for social justice, and Umoja Project for homeless outreach.
Jason Deakings joined Change Today, Change Tomorrow in May 2020 after applying as a program coordinator. Taylor immediately understood how overqualified the Public Health Ph.D. student was for the position and brought him on for Research and Development instead. Jason joins Corey Thomas and other Black men who have signed on to the organization. “Change Today, Change Tomorrow is something I wanted to be a part of,” says Corey. “To be engaged with these phenomenal Black women doing amazing things within the community.”
Corey spent 15 years in retail management before becoming Creative Director of Pocket Change, a retail space near CTCT headquarters in NuLu to centralize Black businesses previously without storefronts. “Being in NuLu speaks to the growth of Black the Block to enhance the visibility of Black people after all the performative Black Lives Matter and Breonna Taylor signs posted in the neighborhood.” Pocket Change had its grand opening on November 15.
December 6-12, Change Today, Change Tomorrow’s holiday giving initiative Bless the Block will provide food and gifts to families in the West End. Donate or sponsor a family at change-today.org/bless-the-block. Find other ways to help at change-today.org/volunteer and follow @ChangeTodayChangeTomorrow on Facebook and Instagram.
As a teacher at Myers Middle School and Shawnee High School in Louisville struggling to help lift the schools out of underperformance, Da’Marrion Fleming came to realize that, “JCPS is not broken. It was just never designed for people of color to succeed.” In 2016, he started the out-of-school academic enrichment program Sowing Seeds with Faith with the ultimate goal of students “navigating the real world understanding their rights and responsibilities.” By 2017, Sowing Seeds with Faith attained a 501c3 nonprofit status. The organization is the largest of its kind in West Louisville, sowing seeds of academic excellence “To engage youth academically and socially in the Greater Louisville Area in mastering developmental challenges via educational expectations, structure, faith, and accountability.”
Sowing Seeds with Faith serves over 500 kids and currently offers a virtual tutoring program. As Founder and Executive Director, Da’Marrion Fleming also directs academic enrichment summer programs and youth mentorships, including his involvement with the Louisville Buccaneers 12u youth-league football team. The Bucs received an invitation to the American Youth Football League Tournament this month in Kissimmee, Florida. “With all the changes 2020 has given them as a team, they have maintained a group GPA of 3.3 and continue to strive for success on and off the field.” The support and encouragement of the community are much appreciated.
COVID has altered volunteer opportunities, but there are ways to move forward. Da’Marrion tells us Sowing Seeds with Faith intends to “abide by the CDC while remaining impactful and minimizing contact.” Prospective new board members are welcome to attend board meetings in December and January before the vote at February’s meeting. In the meantime, Da’Marrion encourages our readers to contribute through the Sowing Seeds with Faith version of the “angel tree” to help “overcome financial barriers during the holidays and bless these local families.” For more information, visit sowingseedswithfaith.org and follow @sowingseedslouisville on Facebook and @sowingseedswithfaith on Instagram.
Since 1923, Kosair Charities has sought to help children overcome their obstacles and realize their full potential. They do this through their gifts and grants program, which typically supports over 200 organizations statewide, and via the Kosair Kids Financial Assistance Program. Lindsay Wehr, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Outreach for Kosair CharitiesⓇ, appreciates her position and the unique perspective she has of their volunteers and advocates. “While working at Kosair CharitiesⓇ, I have the opportunity to engage with staff and volunteers whose dedication shines bright. It is so gratifying to see the fruits of those efforts as we support as many organizations, kids, and families as possible.”
“COVID-19 changed what volunteering looks like,” says Lindsay, “but the need is even greater.” Kosair CharitiesⓇ has found a way for volunteers to engage safely by purchasing a much-needed gift from their Amazon Holiday Wish List to be sent directly to Kosair KidsⓇ. Shop the Wish List yourself at kosair.org/celebrate and share the URL with others. Volunteers are also encouraged to spread the message about the Kosair KidsⓇ Financial Assistance Program, which provides medical bill assistance for those 17 and under, bridging the gap between insurance coverage and out-of-pocket costs. For more information, visit kosair.org/kids.
Lindsay crystallizes their mission in the current climate and moving forward. “As a granting organization, Kosair CharitiesⓇ ensures that every child has equitable access to grow up happy, healthy, and safe.” Be sure to visit kosair.org and follow @kosaircharities on Facebook and Instagram.
USA Cares began with the support of Wave-3 TV, Kroger’s Mid-South Division, and the Association of the United States Army Fort Knox Chapter to provide funds to address the physical, mental, and emotional issues of soldiers and vets following the surge to Iraq in 2003. The organization eventually moved to its current headquarters at 11760 Commonwealth Drive in Louisville, Kentucky. USA Cares’ current mission is to provide post-9/11 military veterans, service members, and their families with emergency financial assistance and post-service skills training” to “create a foundation for long-term stability.” Their services “improve the quality of life for veterans and their families and reduce potential factors that contribute to veteran suicide.”
President/CEO Trace Chesser is a retired Army combat veteran who had his own “difficult transition” to civilian life and the workforce. His work with USA Cares started in the Career Transition Program, and he took over leadership when the original USA Cares CEO retired. Trace shared with us that USA Cares receives over 200 requests per week from soldiers and veterans seeking assistance with bills, housing, transportation, and career transitions.
USA Cares holds events throughout the year, including blanket and coat drives and a toy drive for military kids. Corporate groups have volunteered to help with the administrative work and social media at USA Cares. The organization has become even more flexible in 2020 and welcomes individuals, families, and businesses’ ideas for helping. Trace and his team are continually amazed at the creativity of their volunteers. For more information on USA Cares programs and services, visit usacares.org and follow @usacaresorg on Facebook and @usacares on Instagram.